Forensics : DAs mess up their own DNA evidence and judge lets them use it against the defense

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Douglas Prade has spent over 29 years in prison, then was released by another judge for 16 months and then re-imprisoned since July 2014 by another judge.

The physical evidence (a bitemark)  of his identification presented at the original trial that put him in prison now is considered unreliable by other dental experts in recent submitted court documents.

Now Prade wants a new hearing about the efense obtained DNA evidence and will try to convince the judge that no viable evidence exists (based on  the bitemark opinion being junk) of Prade’s guilt. The DNA recovered was from the victim’s lab coat and profiled as being from an unknown male. The area the DNA was discovered was directly over the area of the skin mark.

The DA will argue before Judge Croce that this DNA profile “could have been transferred by someone anytime” either before the crime or since the coat has been in police and it’s crime lab’s custody. That means he eliminates this as relevant evidence of the someone other than Prade being the killer because of no proper “chain of custody.”

That’s the mantra DAs use when newly found DNA evidence does not support their theory of a defendant’s guilt. It just “showed up.” The DA (and an agreeing appellate judge) brush off the fact that their narrow minded analysis is due to the government’s own lack of due diligence in properly maintaining custody of the coat in the first place. .

The DA in this case would have been all over accepting this DNA from post conviction testing if it had been Prade’s. You can be sure the DA will argue that the bitemark opinions are still worthwhile as well, claiming it to be allowable due to past cases in Ohio.

The kicker is that the skin injury itself was the target source for the DNA.

The continued use of bitemark ID opinions may well be on their way out in Texas where its Forensic Science Commission is considering putting a moratorium on its future use and a retro-active abolition of its validity in decades of past criminal cases. But that can’t help Prade.

I won’t even get into the 2 bitemark experts using a bruise  underneath the victim’s coat sleeve as conclusive ( aka : “consistent with” and “he was the biter” ) evidence that Prade was connected to the murder. There was a third dentist in the mix who disagreed with them by saying “Prade couldn’t bite anything.”

Hence the attempt for a new trial.

Readers unfamiliar with this dark subject of “source attribution” of a perpetrator should understand that in 1997, the bitemark identifiers were at their zenith of judicial acceptance. Descriptions of “a dental blueprint,” “a trademark,”  “novel science,” “crime fighter dentists,” “all people’s teeth are unique,” and “with reasonable medical certainty” abounded in court room testimony by these members of the ABFO and AAFS. It even got to the point that “bitemarks” are as good as fingerprints” and all 50 US states accepted it as gospel. So, if Prade’s teeth were were either consistent or matched with the bruise (the two prosecution opinions), and all human teeth are unique (the first commandment of bite-mark matchers), then the jury in 1997 had conclusive evidence of Prade’s guilt.

Some of these cases used to permit bitemark-readers into every state are now on the Innocence Project’s list of exonerations. 

Don’t expect the Akron DA to bring any of this up before this current judge. He just ridicules the thot that bitemark evidence can be disavowed or criticized as unreliable on the weight of its past mis-use and scientific ineptitude.

Here’s the gist from the latest news on Prade’s ordeal :

“Hearings in the case begin Wednesday afternoon. Croce has said she would only allow testimony and arguments about DNA evidence at this week’s hearings. But defense attorneys hope to convince Croce to consider an expert’s report that said bite mark testimony from prosecution experts during the 1998 trial would be inadmissible today.”

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, ABFO, Bite Marks, Bitemarks, costs of wrongful convictions, CSI, junk forensic science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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